Last year, Warner Brothers invited a group of journalists to the London set of Fantastic Beasts 2: The Crimes of Grindelwald. Production was just getting off the ground, but we were able to see some truly spectacular sets (more on that in a bit). We were also fortunate enough to speak with some of the mega-talent behind the series, including producer David Heyman, director David Yates, costume designer and living legend Colleen Atwood, supervising art director Martin Foley, as well as stars Eddie Redmayne, Ezra Miller, and Callum Turner (a new face to the franchise who plays Newt’s older brother Theseus). Below, Heyman talks about what they learned from the first film, the tone of this sequel, integrating Harry Potter landmarks like Hogwarts into the story, and much more:
QUESTION: Is there a different sense of confidence going into this, because of the way the first one was received? Has that changed how you’re approaching it?
DAVID HEYMAN: No. I think we’re more familiar with the world. You know, the world has been built. We’ve defined the central characters. But this is part of a five-film saga, as it were, and Jo [Rowling] is developing these characters, and they’re all on journeys and so we’re discovering stuff and things, as we go. So in terms of confidence, yes. You know you’ve made a film that works, in some form. But we also want to make a film that’s better.
We’re ambitious and one of the things in talking to David [Yates], one of the things he’s really intent on is making this film feel quite different to the last. This film is more in the spirit of a 1930s thriller, a Third Man and that the like. But at the same time, in a very contemporary way, David is shooting this film in a completely different way to the last one. The last one was quite proscenium and quite classic. This one’s very immersive and distinct. It feels very contemporary in the camera moves and in the spirit. You know, Dumbledore’s in this film. There are little points of connection to the original stories, or to the “Harry Potter” stories that’s quite exciting. So confidence? I mean, there’s always an element of confidence and an element of uncertainty, I think. You mustn’t be too confident.
When you make any film, there’s “Yes, I believe in the vision.” I believe strongly in that. I believe in Jo’s script and Jo’s imagination. I believe in that. I believe we’ve got a great group of people in front of and behind the camera. And what’s great is, you know, we’ve gone through it, and we sat down, looking at the last film, looking at things we want to improve aesthetically or in various areas, and we’re gonna do everything we can to make this one feel distinct, but also better than the last.
How do you balance that distinction or that distinct style, versus setting up the other movies, knowing that there are going to be so many more to come? Is that a consideration?
HEYMAN: Not really. In a way, it’s organic. You know, Jo’s writing leads you in that direction. She’s conceived of this five-episode story. So, you know, parceling out information and all that, that comes fairly organically, and it’s responding, largely, to the script. There are things that we talk about, as they relate to this film, as a standalone. Because the film’s going to work on its own terms, making sure the characters are serviced in the right way. But as for the Potter films, she’ll say, “I’m not sure you can do that because it’ll mess up film five.” On Potter we had one time we wanted to … there was a scene where we wanted to cut a creature from, I think, the fifth film. I can’t remember which one. We were thinking about cutting creature from Grimmauld Place, and she’s, like, “I wouldn’t do that if I were you, because he has a part to play in a later film.”
I wonder if there’s a particular scene or a particular moment that you think fans will really respond to?
HEYMAN: I think, going back to Hogwarts. That’s all I’ll say. I think– you know, how wonderful to touch on Dumbledore. That’s it. I think– sorry, not going back to Hogwarts. Going back to the world of … it’s seeing Dumbledore. How great is that? Seeing a younger Dumbledore and seeing he and Newt’s first meeting, I think, will be a thing that the fans will really love. Because here is this character who we have such connection to, who is such a central part of the “Harry Potter” stories, and to see him earlier on, as it were, very much related to the Dumbledore of … I’d say, “of old,” but of future. But at the same time, you realize in the Potter films that he was working things to his own end. You know, he knew the path. He knew what was happening. He understood the backstories, and he was working Harry. I mean, in some ways, you could say, responsibly putting Harry into great danger, at times. But he had faith in Harry and his ability. While here, you see Dumbledore and there are remnants of that, and you see echoes of that. But he’s also wonderful and colorful and magical and wise, and the character that we know, but younger, and we see slightly different shades.
Can you talk about your process in casting an actor as young Dumbledore?
HEYMAN: It was not inconsiderable, as you can imagine, and we had various people work with Eddie, and we did three or four scenes. And it was quite clear that Jude was the one. You know, he has a bit of mischief. He’s charismatic. And he has many of the qualities that we wanted in the part.
The last movie has this epic, epic twist when Johnny Depp, all of a sudden, shows up at the end. Nobody expected it. Will we get a similar moment in this movie, and do you feel pressure to include such a moment?
HEYMAN: You’ll have to wait and see. <laughter> But no, we don’t feel the pressure. It’s not about a twist. We want the film to work on its own terms, and because we’re telling a five-part saga here, there will be things that lead on into the next. No, the Johnny moments are pretty good. But no pressure, because ultimately, we’ve got to make a film that works on its own terms. I think, you know, people talk about pressure and nervousness and confidence. Ultimately, we could be paralyzed if we listened to other people’s expectations. I’ve said this with every one of the Potter films. If I read all the criticism and went, “Oh, my God, what…” and then, I said, “Oh, okay. I’ve got to answer each one.” Each of those criticisms and each of those concerns and each — we wouldn’t have made a film, because it would’ve been paralyzing. Ultimately, we have Steve Kloves, Lionel [Wigram], myself, David Yates, and a host of other people, who know this world very, very, very well, and we have Jo Rowling, who’s creating and building a new universe, or a connected universe or a connected narrative. So we have to have faith in that and our own ambition and belief and confidence, to a degree, to tell these stories well. But no, we don’t feel pressure of having to do something a certain way. This film, as I said before, will feel quite different to the last one. Therein lies a certain pleasure. It’s not a sequel, where we’re giving people the same thing, again and again. It’ll be Jo’s universe, the Wizarding World will be further enriched in this, and I think audiences will really, really, really enjoy them. So it’s not about fitting a scene for a twist or that. But wait and see.
Regarding Madam Picquery, the President of MACUSA, I was wondering, how present are the women in this sequel? Like, will we have another woman in an important role for the sequel?
HEYMAN:I don’t know that we’re, again, as self-conscious as that. But there are women of significant roles in this film, yes. There are men with significant roles. There are new characters that we find in new female characters and new male characters in this film, who are very significant, each of whom has their own idiosyncrasies, and their own qualities, and their own impact upon the story, historically and going forward.
Going back to Dumbledore, in 2007, I believe, Rowling revealed that she always saw this character as being gay in the books.
Is that something that you guys plan on addressing? Because I feel like we’re constantly having a discussion about pushing diversity and, especially, LGBTQ visibility. Is that something you’ve already talked about with Rowling?
HEYMAN: I don’t think it’s something we talk– again, see the film. I think the film will answer that question. I think ultimately Jo talked about Dumbledore as being gay.